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Chef Dave Beran Talks Dialogue, His Inventive New Santa Monica Restaurant

Chef Dave Beran spent 10 years cooking at cutting-edge Chicago restaurants Alinea and Next, where he racked up awards and recognition for modern cuisine in the molecular vein.

Now he’s ready to try something a little more Californian at Dialogue, which opens in a small remodeled space in a former food court on the Santa Monica Promenade on Sept. 5. Reservations are already scarce for the first few weeks of service, making it one of L.A.’s hottest foodie tickets of the moment.

Dialogue will seat 18 people at a time, with one tasting menu of 22 courses, and two beverage options. “The space is so small, so it promotes conversation between the diners and the service staff,” says Beran, who promises plenty of energy and music during the two and a half hour dinner.

“It’s really interactive and fast-paced,” says the chef-owner, comparing the way the courses progress to a Japanese kaiseki meal. “It’s written more like a story.”

For the first menu, Beran says the menu will unfold through the transition of seasons with a look back at spring, a focus on summer, and a preview of autumn.

He describes Dialogue’s flavors as “bouncing between French and Japanese” with lots of emphasis on the produce and fresher flavors inspired by the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market just steps from the restaurant.

Even for those who have eaten at the Chicago temples of modernist dining, Beran says he won’t repeat anything. He promises an all-new experience that plays with sounds, aromas, service pieces, and other creative ways to break up the meal.

As the date of first service nears, what is Beran excited about cooking? One example is a dish based on the concept of “what it means to burn something.” Served on custom plates that look like burnt ceramic, it’s meant to evoke the nostalgic smell of late-summer grilling, combining beef that’s charred on the outside and rare on the inside with burnt onion terrine, and a ponzu sauce made from burnt onions that have been aged for nine months.

And why Santa Monica? Beran says he first thought about being located among the hotbed of new concepts in downtown L.A. But he says that after experiencing L.A.’s canyons and bounty of produce, he wanted to become part of a smaller community. “It felt really homey,” he says of the beach city.

Served from Tuesday to Saturday, the tasting menu runs from $175 to $205. The restaurant has a no tipping policy.

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